Title: If I wasn't a prince...
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: It starts with a whisper, right before they fall asleep.
Word Count: ~800
Prompt: #6 Whispers in the night
Author's Notes: Once again, I'm not even sure what I'm doing.
It starts with a whisper, right before they fall asleep. They’re staying in the woods, the fire burning low and the smell of damp forest all around them. They’ve gone after something or another, or maybe something has gone after them; in the end it’s always the same. Chasing their destiny, being chased by adventure; if things looked different--
I know I'm a prince... so we can't be friends. But if I wasn't a prince...
“We’d meet here.”
Arthur grunts questioningly, more asleep than awake. Merlin isn’t better off, but he finds it in himself to explain, “If you weren’t a prince. We’d meet here. ‘s a nice place.”
And falls asleep right after.
Months pass and they’re in the castle. Merlin’s tidying up for the night, Arthur watching him from his bed, his blond head barely sticking out of the covers. It’s winter and it’s cold, and it’ll be even colder in the morning.
“You’d help me out,” he says quietly. “Somehow. I’d lose something and you’d help me searching, even though you wouldn’t know me at all.”
Merlin knows instantly what it is about and grins, says louder, “I’d help you out, huh?” and then there’s only “shut up, Merlin” and Arthur clearing his throat to let his voice ring.
It becomes a game. Merlin talks about how Arthur would get spoiled by Merlin’s mother after he met her. In return Arthur tells Merlin how he’d be too naive for his own good and Arthur would have to take care of that, keep taking care of that all the time, in fact, because it’s not as if Merlin would spare Arthur the trouble and change. They share the made-up scenes and ideas in the dark, in whispers, because it doesn’t sound embarrassing at all that way.
One time not-a-prince-Arthur and not-a-servant-Merlin get ambushed by bandits, and Arthur and Merlin argue how they get out of it.
Merlin wants to befriend the bandits, but Arthur gets offended and says that one befriending is enough. Then Merlin laughs, “What if you were a bandit?”, and it’s fun for a while, and they spend the whole night revising their story where not-a-prince-Arthur is in fact a bandit-Arthur.
After that there’s a lot of Arthurs and Merlins, until one day Merlin says, so quietly it’s almost nothing more than a puff of breath, “I’d be a sorcerer.”
Arthur is a little bit drunk, at the time, so he only hums, unperturbed. Later, he thinks that it’s just as well, really: not-a-prince-Arthur wouldn’t care, would he?
He says so to Merlin next time.
“I’d be curious, naturally,” he adds when Merlin is quiet for far too long. “I’d ask a lot of questions. You’d be rubbish at answering them, though. Hopeless, really.”
Of course that starts another argument, apparently with everyone. Sorcerer-Merlin says that magic is to be shown, not explained with words, and curious-Arthur thinks it sounds fair enough. He’s far more interested in practical demonstrations, anyway.
They’re reluctant to let go of that idea, so they don’t. It’s too exciting, gives too many possibilities.
The other Merlin and Arthur fight too, quite a lot, because it’s still them. One time, when Arthur talks about it, it’s suddenly very clear in his head.
“...and you’d think it’s a great idea to go do it alone, but I wouldn’t let you. I’d-- I’d grab your hand and keep you there and you’d...”
“Call you a prat.”
“Yes, yes, but... but I wouldn’t care, whatever you’d call me, because you wouldn’t pull away.”
“It’s just because I was cold, though, remember? And your hand is warm.”
Merlin finds his hand in the darkness and his hand is cold when Arthur’s definitely not.
“Fine, whatever. But then I’d want you to get warm.”
“Even when we’d be fighting?”
“Yeah. I’m very generous, you know. And you’re cold.”
“So I wouldn’t pull away.”
Sorcerer-Merlin’s nose would be cold, too, Arthur thinks. All of sorcerer-Merlin would be. And sorcerer-Merlin would be angry, and curious-Arthur would be concerned and angrier.
“Would you hold me?” Merlin whispers, his grip tightening. Arthur wants to say yes, but he doesn’t.
“I’d be angry,” he says instead, voice scratchy and not like his own. “I’d probably just kiss you.”
Merlin is quiet for a long while. His hand stays where it is, though, until finally he lets out barely audible “Oh”.
Somehow, later, they’re laughing, all of them, and Arthur -- king Arthur -- pulls his hand away and smiles.
We'd probably get on.